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U.N. official critical of Iraqi sanctions may leave job in April


U.N. official critical of Iraqi sanctions may leave job in April

February 11, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- The senior U.N. humanitarian coordinator in
Baghdad, who has run afoul of the United States and Britain, is expected
to leave his post in early April, sources at the United Nations said on

Hans von Sponeck, a German career U.N. official, has recently spoken out
more forcefully against 9-year-old sanctions imposed against Iraq and said
the U.N. oil-for-food program he heads was not meeting minimum
requirements to ease the impact of the embargoes. 

He will return to New York for consultations at the end of March and then
go back to Baghdad briefly before leaving his post, the sources said. 

U.N. spokesman John Mills refused to comment but said the New York visit
had been scheduled as early as last November. 

Asked about von Sponeck's expected departure, U.S. State Department
spokesman James Rubin said: "Good." 

"I think an article in the Iraqi press praising his approach to his work
is ample evidence of his unsuitability of this post," Rubin said. 

"His job is to work on behalf of Iraqi people and not the regime and we
look forward to an able manager who will maximize the benefits of the
oil-for-food programme," he added. 

 On Friday, the Iraqi newspaper, al-Tharwa, said von Sponeck's analysis
was based on facts and figures. "He did not publish personal viewpoints
irrelevant to his job when he talked about the deterioration of the health
or food situation in Iraq," it said. 

 Von Sponeck, was appointed to the post on Oct. 26, 1998, the fifth
humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad for the programme that allows Baghdad
to sell oil and purchase food, medicine and other goods under tight

 In November, Secretary-General Kofi Annan extended his term to April 25
rather than for a year as some expected but he refused to release him
immediately as Washington had wanted. 

Von Sponeck had been told at the time to curb his public statements. But
he resumed interviews with German and U.S. media this month, an indication
he planned to leave his job. 

His predecessor, Denis Halliday of Ireland, voiced similar criticism about
the impoverishment of ordinary Iraqis while the leadership grew rich under
the U.N. sanctions, imposed in August 1990 when Baghdad's troops invaded

U.S. officials last year accused von Sponeck of siding with Iraq in a
propaganda battle over who is to blame for the suffering of the Iraqi
people:  the West, for imposing harsh economic sanctions, or Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein, for failing to comply with terms for lifting
those sanctions. 

Von Sponeck had also complained that the oil-for-food programme suffered
because of the holds placed on Iraqi imports. 

The United States has frozen 1,000 contracts, a situation criticized by
nearly all U.N. officials and diplomats. Britain runs a low second with
about 120 contracts on hold. 

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